UFC on FuelTV 10 Saturday, June 8, 2013 Heavyweights: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: It’s a PRIDE rematch 7 years in the making. Nogueira and Werdum have each fought the who’s who of MMA heavyweights through their illustrious careers, and will finally face off in the Octagon after coaching against each other in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Though the first fight ended in a unanimous decision win for Big Nog, remember, these guys were a lot younger back then. Fast forward to their rematch this weekend and Werdum is the -320 favorite, Nogueira the +260 underdog. So let’s see how they match up now. Summary Stats:
Tale of Tape Matchup: Two big facts to remember here: these are both heavyweights over the age of 35. Why is that important? First, heavyweights finish 74% of their fights, more than any other division. And more than 3/4ths of those finishes will come via strikes rather than submissions. What’s more is that the main difference between fighters above 35 years of age and their younger counter-parts is knockdown resiliency. Older fighter don’t fight any different on offense, they simply can’t take as much punishment on their feet as they used to. Both these factors combined with the 5-round aspect of this fight make a finish inside the distance very likely. But who has the better chance of winning? Standup Game: Hopefully these guys are willing to stand and trade to settle the TUF Brazil 2 rivalry. Nogueira’s training in boxing is contrasted by Werdum’s Muay Thai, but both have accurate hands for big men. Werdum interestingly has the better jab and higher pace, but Big Nog has more knockdown power. Werdum may want to neutralize that threat by pushing the fight against the cage. On defense, both fighters are similarly better than average in avoiding strikes, but have both suffered more knockdowns than they’ve delivered, and have chins that are worse than the heavyweight average. This will be compounded by the fact that Nogueira just turned 37, and Werdum turns 36 next month. Being on the tail end of your career is a dangerous thing in the heavyweight division. Since joining Strikeforce and the UFC these guys have tallied 5 knockdowns scored, but 10 knockdowns received. They each remain dangerous, but also more fragile than ever. Ground Game: Both fighters boast legitimate BJJ black belt credentials, but Werdum is the more decorated grappler. Going to ground has not been a specialty of either fighter, and both fighters spend less than a third of their fight time on the mat. In fact, each has a takedown success rate that is below average, and even worse are their takedown defense rates, which are both way below average. Whether or not either fighter chooses to take this to the ground is hard to predict, but Werdum probably has more reason, especially after seeing Frank Mir’s brutal submission of Big Nog 18 months ago. If either fighter is rocked, they may go for submissions for the finish depending on position. But as the fight goes on, both fighters will tire and submissions will become less likely. The only way this fight goes the distance is if after slugging it out for a bit, they each decide to take the safer route of an exhausted grappling match. That would be bad for a lot of reasons. Fight Prediction: Predicting who will land the big punch first is tricky business at heavyweight. Either guy has the potential to do it. The numbers give a slight edge to Werdum, especially if he uses the clinch. Again, Nogueira has the better power with his hands, but also the worse chin. Reed’s Pick: Werdum by TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: I like a play on “Fight does not go the distance” at -260. A straight up finish in the heavyweight division should normally command a -285 line simply based on their historical finishing rate. We’re already just below that average now. But in this case, we have two dangerous fighters who are at increased risk of knockout due to their age, combined with an extra two rounds in which one might land that critical strike. Consider combining this inside the distance play with the Silva-Cavalcante fight inside the distance as parlay for nearly even money return. Then forget about rooting for favorites, and just hope for exciting finishes in those two fights. Or if you’re willing to take some risk, remember that Nogueira’s hands are still dangerous and present decent value at +490 for Nogueira inside the distance.